What’s stopping you is fear…

Carl Richards is a Certified Financial Planner™ and creator of the Sketch Guy column, appearing weekly in The New York Times since 2010.  The following article is reproduced with permission from his weekly newsletter and his website can be found here.

Greetings, Carl here.

Correct me if I’m wrong: There’s something you’ve been working on, right?

It’s something you’ve always dreamed of. Something you’re super excited about. And it’s so close! It’s the business you’re about to launch. The novel in final edits. The podcast you’re about to release… as soon as the time is right.

Can I just ask you something?

What’s stopping you from putting this thing into the world?

I have a hunch I know the answer to that question. But I’m warning you, you might not like it.

The reason this thing is still a secret is… you’re scared.

That’s right, the reason is fear.

Now, that can be difficult to see sometimes because we’ll do anything to avoid facing our fears. Instead of facing fear, we dress it up in disguises.

“What color should the logo be?”

“I’m not sure what font to use.”

“I can’t find an agent.”

Let me be clear about something. That last item on the checklist before you launch… that’s not work, that’s fear dressed up as work. It’s a convenient excuse allowing you to keep putting off facing your fears.

Look, I’m not talking about first drafts here. The hang-ups that keep you from starting a project are a different subject altogether. I’m talking about you being so close to the finish line you can taste it. And yet, you don’t take that final step and launch.

I have news for you: What’s holding you up isn’t the size of your font—it’s the size of your fear.

Do me a favor. Go grab a piece of paper and pen, and do the following:

1- On the left-hand side of the page, draw a box and label it “The Thing I Want to Do.”
2- On the right-hand side, draw another box and label it “Actually Doing It.”
3- In the middle, between “The Thing I Want to Do” and “Actually Doing It,” make a list of everything that is standing in your way.
4- Draw a big box around that list and label it “Roadblocks.”
5- Next, grab a Sharpie and put a big fat line through “Roadblocks.” Above it, in all caps, write “Places to Hide.”

I want you to take that piece of paper and pin it up somewhere you’re bound to see it often. This is your daily reminder of the real reason you’re not doing that thing you want to do.

Our own work, when we are judging it ourselves, is never finished or good enough. I have a secret for you: it’s not because we are perfectionists. It’s because we are scared. Scared nobody will like it, scared it won’t work out, scared of being embarrassed.

The way we deal with that fear is by picking a roadblock and hiding behind it. Isn’t that funny? Just like when we were children and hid under the blankets from the monster in the closet.

Let me be super clear: being scared is not the problem. Being scared is human, normal, and totally okay. The problem is when our fears prevent us from making the quantum leap between “The Thing I Want To Do” and “Actually Doing It.”

Once we understand why we are perpetually stuck at 90 percent, we can make major strides toward 100 percent. It’s no longer about any specific roadblock. Now it’s about, “How do I work with fear?”

That is a much better question than, “What font should I use?” and it’s one that is much more interesting.


P.S. As always, if you want to use this sketch, you can buy it here.